1 Peter 4:7-10
The end of all things is near; therefore be serious and discipline yourselves for the sake of your prayers. Above all, maintain constant love for one another, for love covers a multitude of sins. Be hospitable to one another without complaining. Like good stewards of the manifold grace of God, serve one another with whatever gift each of you has received.
As we unpack this parable please consider two things. First we are looking at each of us individually and who we are in the story but we also need to look at it as a church. Where is our church in the story. Secondly, a major point that surrounds this scripture is you must be prepared for the second coming of Jesus at any time, therefore your response today is urgently demanded by God. Chapter 24 of Matthew deals with the question of when Jesus will return and chapter 25 ends with how God will separate the sheep and the goats. This parable applies to how you live your lives today, how God acts and reacts to us, and we are called to act and react to Him. So who are you in this story?
While the scripture will be read in the sermon, here is the condensed version. A master, whom we know is Jesus, is getting ready for a long journey. He calls his servants and distributes his wealth among them. He leaves and then he comes back. When he returns he demands an accounting and those who had invested wisely, he rewarded. And the one who did not invest is condemned. So let’s look at the points we can glean form this parable.
1. What we have is not ours. Verse 14 the man gets ready for a journey and “summoned his slaves and entrusted his property to them.” In Jesus’ time wealthy men would take long trips and there return would be open-ended. Therefore masters would delegate the control of their wealth and expect positive results in their possible long absence.
Servants were trustees but they never forgot that they were not the owners. They managed what was given to them for the benefit of the master. Is this basic principle totally recognized in your life? You don’t really own anything, everything belongs to the Lord. Until we recognize that truth, we will not be good managers of what God has entrusted to us. Recognize, our days are in His hands. Our gifts and abilities are on loan from Him. Our money is an “advance” from God. Our houses, cars, clothes, and every possession doesn’t belong to us. We really don’t own anything.
2. We are given what we can handle. Verse 15, “to one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away.” Here a talent is a weight of precious metal. Depending on whether is was copper, silver, or gold, the value was set. People generally speculate one talent equaled about $300,000 in today’s money so all got a huge amount to be responsible for: 1.5 million, 600,000 and 300,000. This reminds us that God gives out of His abundance to us.
Many prosperity preachers use this for their prosperity Gospel, I firmly believe that they are false prophets. Many preachers like to use this concerning tithing and giving to the church, but it is more than that. The core of this parable is about how we responsively use our God given talents and God given super natural abilities. Each was given “according to their abilities.” Your responsibilities in your life and in this church are tied to your abilities and God is using us all together to do what is best for the kingdom. We all have different abilities. Our Bible says so, read 1 Corinthians 3:7-9.
You have what you have because God gave it to you and you are to manage His gifts with the ability He wired into you. God knows what we can handle and our job is to faithful with whatever amount we have to work with. Who today thinks that they have no ability for God? Gee, I feel called but I don’t know how to do it. Isn’t it time to trust that God knows more about us than we know about ourselves?
3. We must invest what we have been given. Verse 16 tells us that the man who got 5 talents “went off at once and traded with them, and made five more talents.” And the 2 talent man did the same. At once, immediately, boom, no stammering, no wondering, no thinking along the lines of “gee, I am just a poor slave and this is a lot of responsibility and I am not sure how I can do it and I have never done this before.”
Their attitude is what our attitude must be, whether we think we are qualified or not, if the master, God, has given us something we immediately need to step out and do it and trust that he will guide us. The first two worked hard to do it. I doubt they delegated everything out and took the credit. I doubt they took the responsibility of the talents then did little planning and suddenly at the last minute think they would double their money. That didn’t work in the time of Jesus and I don’t think that works now.
In verse 18 we learn about the third servant. “But the one who had received the one talent went off and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.” The master didn’t tell them what to do with their talents and the first two were go getters for the master but the 1 talent guy did what many in the world at the time would do. Yes he did the smart worldly thing, the lazy thing, the easy thing once he dug the hole, he buried his blessing once he received it. He hid his valuables given by the master. It was safe and had little risk, he didn’t lose it then nor use it.
Our potential is God’s gift to us. What we do is our gift to Him. Are you investing what you have been given, regardless of how much it is? Or, have you buried your blessing and kept it hidden from others? Zig Ziglar said, “You are the only person on earth who can use your ability.”
4. A day of accountability is coming. If an IRS audit bothers you, let me tell you that we will all be audited by God. This parable clearly tells us that we will have to give an account to God for how we have used those things which have been given by God. Verse 19, After a long time the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them.
There will be a day of reckoning. Most of us believe this in our heads, yet we don’t always live with eternity and this fact in our hearts. The world gets in the way. We use our gifts for worldly advancement and pleasure, we all too often serve the world more than focusing on making an eternal return on our investments. Once again ponder the times when you give God your leftover time, money, and talents, each of us will be accountable to God. Yes, get in the habit of asking yourself this question as you live life, “How will this decision look on the day of accountability?”
5. What we do with what we have reveals our view of God. The five talent guy said, “See, I have gained five more.” See also translates to “behold”, “look”, this eager guy invested and now he’s excited to show the master what he was done with God’s gift. The two talent guy had the same anticipation and excitement. The master is thrilled because they demonstrated responsibility for their ability.
The master said, “Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.” Look at what these slaves or servants received:
Affirmation: “Great job! Well done. I appreciate your faithfulness.”
Promotion: “Since you’ve done so well with what I’ve given you, I’m going to give you even more responsibility and opportunity for growth.” More – not time to retire
Celebration: “You’ve made me very happy. Let’s celebrate together!”
They were faithful and were called good because they had a right view of the master. Likewise, when we see God for who He is, we will want to be faithful and we’ll focus on doing good things for the kingdom, not just our world. And, when we’re responsible for what we’ve been given, we’ll be given even more responsibilities. Rejoice in more responsibilities! Let go of some world responsibilities, make room for God’s responsibilities. God is using you for His good when you get more. Don’t shrink from them, praise God for them.
The one-talent guy came reluctantly to the master and said in verse 24: “…I knew that you were a hard man…” The first words out of his mouth were about himself: “I knew.” We could translate this as, “I always knew.” The other two guys kept the focus on the master when he returned: “Master, you entrusted me.”
This third guy had a wrong view of the master and had his mind made up even before he received his talent. He looked at him as someone who was hard and harsh, instead of loving and gracious. If we view God as a tyrant then we’ll filter everything through this lens. Some may be secretly angry with God because you think He did something, or didn’t do something that you think He should have. As a result, your view of Him is skewed. Your preconceived notions prevent you from seeing Him as a God of grace, and as a result you refuse to serve Him with what He’s given you. When we blame God we end up burying our blessings.
A faulty view of God can also lead to excuses as this man declared that the reason he didn’t do anything with what he had been given was because he was afraid. His fear paralyzed him and so he decided to play it safe. He hid the money to make sure it wouldn’t be lost. And he accomplished exactly what he set out to achieve: nothing.
A wrong view of God always leads to fear, a right view of God always leads to faith. Courage is moving ahead and out in spite of your fears. I think the first two guys were probably a little afraid as well, but because they knew the master’s character, instead of being frozen by fear, they stepped out in faith. What do YOU need to do today?
Let’s look at the differences between the two servants who served and the one who did nothing.
The first two were determined to make a profit; the third was determined to not take a loss.
The first two were willing to work hard and take risks; the third took no risks.
The first two wanted to advance the master’s kingdom; the third had no interest in what mattered to the master.
The first two viewed the money as an opportunity; the third guy saw it as a problem.
The first two allowed the master’s gift to change their lives; the third refused to let the gift touch his life.
The first two invested; the other one wasted.
The first two saw a blessing in the responsibilities; the third guy saw a burden.
The first two knew the master; the third guy had no clue. What touches your heart now?
6. What we have we must use or what we have we will lose. Verse 26 reveals that the master saw right through the flimsy excuses of the servant when he said, “You wicked, lazy servant!” The master meant, “You’re lying. In your heart, you are a selfish and lazy bum. If you really wanted to do something, you would have put my money in the bank. I see right through you.” Strong words. God will judge not merely for doing wrong, but for not doing right!
Wickedness and laziness partner together to keep many people from full surrender and service. While the other two servants were busy and working hard, this selfish lazy man dug a hole, little realizing that he was digging it for himself! A selfish heart coupled with an unwillingness to do anything about it, will take many people on the path of destruction that can lead to the place of weeping and gnashing of teeth. This parable tells us that laziness with God’s gifts is extremely dangerous to our spiritual lives.
Because this third guy did not use what He had been given, He lost it according to verse 28: “Take the talent from him and give it to the one who has the ten talents.” It’s God’s “use it or lose it” principle. Don’t hold what you have from God. Develop it, compound it, and multiply it by using what you’ve been given.
7. Who you know and what you do will lead to either abundance or agony in the next life. In verse 29, we learn that those who are faithful with the little things will have an abundance, or excess: “For everyone who has will be given more, and he will have an abundance.” Those who have given themselves in full surrender and selfless service will be given even more opportunities.
On the other hand, those who bury their blessings will face agony. Jesus concludes this parable by saying that the worthless servant will be thrown “outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” This description is used elsewhere to refer to hell. Those who don’t know God don’t serve Him. A distinguishing mark of a true Christian is ever growing service and giving. A Christian who is not using what God has given is a contradiction in terms.
Don’t hide the truth. Don’t bury it. Allow the greatest treasure of all, Jesus Christ Himself, to radically reform your life. Some of us think that we don’t have much to offer, but what we have is really a treasure from God himself. Our responsibility is to use our ability to invest in God’s kingdom purposes.
Jesus has placed His business into our hands and will return someday to judge our faithfulness individually and as a church. Are we partnering with Him in HIS mission or are we making excuses doing what we want instead?